Entrepreneurs and Corporate Executives – Must Have One Important Strategy in Common

Posted: July 28, 2013 by Tom Heuer in Leadership, People, Planning, Startup

heuerFrom our perch in higher education, the role of the entrepreneur and corporate executive seems very different.  The entrepreneur’s passion is to take calculated risks by starting-up businesses.  Their aim is to solve a business or social problem.  Conversely, corporate executives are laser focused on achieving monthly financial results to placate their stakeholders – primarily shareholders.  These “diverse interests” seem to encourage a very different view of the world.  Having been in both roles during my career, the situations may be very different but the approach to achieving investor and shareholder value is the same.  Both – the entrepreneur and the corporate executive – must deliver today’s results while preparing the company for the future.  Both aspirations are vitally important.  In today’s business world, delivering today’s results receives more energy, time and resources.  It is the attention-getter but just as important is the defining of the start-up or company’s future.

Why Is The Future A Lower Priority?

Why is so much energy focused on “the NOW ?”  We think numerous reasons exist for business owners and corporate executives to lust after today’s results and miss the mark on preparing the business for the future.

  • “The future” is nebulous and so, it is hard and requires extra effort and commitment.  Conversely, the present is in the numbers and is easier to define and execute.  The future is hard – so there is less passion for it. To entrepreneurs and corporate executives, understanding the future must receive the same amount of shelf space as the present.  Working hard to understand the future will eventually make the present easier.
  • To get to the future, you must be willing to constantly inspire the possibilities in your team, your employees, your partners, your customers, etc.  This requires the entrepreneur and corporate executive to change their priorities and to value what can be learned by visiting the field to work with customers and employees.  Just look at Starbucks and its meteoric growth.  A major factor was Howard Schultz’s passion for visiting the stores, talking with customers and employees and learning about the business.  To develop an extraordinary company, the leader must be willing to feel some discomfort.  You will not be able to inspire the possibilities in anyone by sitting in your office looking at numbers.  So embrace being uncomfortable to create something extraordinary.
  •  Achieving today’s results provide instant financial gratification to entrepreneurs and corporate executives.  I have often heard that “my hard work over the years has entitled me to the financial rewards of achieving short-term results.”  The financial incentives are more enticing for delivering monthly/quarterly results than developing the next big industry disruption or the next revenue wave for the start-up.  Instant gratification remains a stronger “north star” than building a business with financial longevity, customer focus and social conscious.  Unfortunately, until the reward systems change, focusing on a start-up or company’s future will take a backseat.  And, so will innovation and business growth.

The Present Creates the Future

 What is the message?  The future is created by all the things done in the present – every day.  Leaders need to understand that if there is a mist in the ivory tower, there will be a fog on Main Street.  Translated – if the leaders are not sure about the future, the employees will not understand whether their work today made a difference.  Gaining clarity about the future is a challenging and difficult aspect of the entrepreneur and corporate executive’s role.  But, today,  it is just as important as delivering today’s results.

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